KEARNEY, Neb. — The University of Nebraska at Kearney is offering a new study-abroad program this year. Destination: China.
Nine UNK students left for China Thursday for the program, “UNK Semester Abroad,” and return Dec. 13.
John Vieth, of Grand Island, Neb., a junior at UNK studying travel and tourism, said, “Once you get out of college, you don’t have as much time to go to places like China. And not too many people can say they lived in China for four months.”
He will attend Hebei Normal University in Shijiazhuang, taking a Chinese-language course and UNK global media literacy and international studies courses.
“UNK Semester Abroad” is designed to cost roughly the same amount of money as a semester at UNK, said Ann Marie Park, coordinator for UNK’s study-abroad programs. The program is open to UNK students only.
The program is geared toward juniors in college. The next program will be offered in the spring of 2012 and will probably be to somewhere in Latin America.
China was chosen as the first destination because it is considered “one of the powerhouses of the future,” Park said.
“China is going to play a huge, pivotal role in all business dealings,” Park said. “It really gives them (students) an advantage. It doesn’t matter what future, having had this experience, having taken one semester of Chinese, with their exposure traveling around the country, they’re really going to have a leg up.”
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Vieth wants to go into hotel management in the United States. He said having a better international understanding is important for anyone studying travel and tourism, even if that person plans to be based in the United States.
He will participate in five tours to cities in China. The tours to Beijing, Xian, Baiyang, Shandong and Shangxi will last two to four days each.
He will travel with the group of UNK students most of the time, in a structured environment.
“You can only be so immersed when you don’t speak Chinese,” Vieth said.
As part of another program, Sam Schneider of Grand Island, an economics and political science major at UNK, traveled to the Netherlands this week and will stay until Dec. 17.
Because he was traveling to a European country, he was hoping for a deeper immersion in the Netherlands culture.
“I think total immersion is definitely the goal with any program,” Schneider said. “But it depends on where you’re going. If I was going to be in an Asian country, there might be more of a culture shock.”
Schneider is one of 200 foreign students accepted to the Honors College of Utrecht University in Middelburg, Netherlands, in the Roosevelt Academy Exchange program. Four women from UNK also were accepted to that college.
Schneider hopes to work in government someday. He said one reason he wants to study abroad is to better understand how foreign governments work.
“You always hear, ‘The world’s only getting smaller,’ and that’s definitely true,” Schneider said. “Before anyone enters the work force or grad school, it’s important that people have that outside awareness of what’s going on, not just nationally, but internationally.”
The nice thing about the program Vieth is involved with, Park said, is that the students can take UNK classes instead of classes that would have to transfer.
All of the courses Vieth takes in China will be taught in English, except for the Chinese language course.
Park said studying abroad not only allows students to better understand foreign cultures but also prepares students for life.
“Tomorrow, we’re all going to have to work together at some point,” Park said. “Whether you’re going into business or medicine, you’re going to have international dealings. You’re going to have to know how to deal with diversity and how to step outside of your comfort zone and function in a society where there are a lot of uncertainties.”
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(By Ellen Hirst WORLD-HERALD NEWS SERVICE)